Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #16 (September 27th, 2006)

Last week's Blog & Mail was brought to you by

Dave Sim Collected Letters 2004

"You can't buy a better corrective for the Dave Sim-challenged and those with Dave Sim issues in your life. Compassionate, caring, loving, a devoted family man. Dave Sim is none of these things. It's all just ideas and hair-splitting arguments and sophistry and even when he talks about Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce Knowles he doesn't get into what they would be like in the sack or tell you where you can find a website with the best shots of their boobs hanging out of their dresses. Frankly, I don't get the point at all."

Albert Einstein,[I absolutely swear: at a séance I was at the other night. He looked just like his photos, too. I absolutely swear to you.]

Dave Sim Collected Letters 2004

Available at better comic book stores somewhere in the Tri-state area but don't ask me which ones because I think the idea that the book is available in any comic-book store probably qualifies as a serious delusion on my part that I'm just not in the right space to deal with that fact at this point in my life, you know?

Or order on-line at

Last week's Blog & Mail (and this spill-over addition) was dedicated with the greatest respect and admiration to Chris Woerner, serving with US Forces in Baghdad even as you read this, stationed in one of Saddam's old palaces. Talk about a room with a view. God willing he comes back to us safe and sound and we'll be seeing him at one or another of the Yahoo get-togethers—maybe SPACE in April of '07? Say, if anybody has an idea of what we can do with the trade paperbacks before we send them over to make them less inclined to turn into trade paperback stew (glue bindings on books melt in the Iraqi heat, I've been told) please feel free to post your favourite recipe here ("Then take a small spatula and carefully extracting the remaining glue residue…").

Okay, I'm going to have to be a little careful here because today's entry deals with Alex Robinson and he sure didn't have any idea that I was going to be doing this Blog when he wrote to me on 6 September or that I intended to use excerpts from people's letters without permission. [I also apologize for getting these columns out of order—I kept juggling them, trying to minimize the "emotional trauma" they were apt wreak in feminist circles—and ending up promising that this column would appear last Sunday in doing so. Last week I did two Tuesday columns by accident. Jeff Tundis suggested that I type the days of the week in a single column at the beginning of my work on a week's worth of Blog & Mails and I took his excellent suggestion this week, so everything should be straightened out from now on].

He writes, "It was also good to see you at SPACE, though I wish we could've spoken some more in a less noisy setting. It was also strange because at one point I noticed that a few people had gathered around us and were just listening to us converse, without actually participating. I'm sure you're used to it by this time, being the former godfather of self-publishing and all, but it was a very disconcerting experience to me, almost like being on stage."

Well, truer words were never spoken (and the subtext makes me even more hesitant about quoting Alex here) but I think it's just a difference in perspective. I'm so used to it by now, I didn't even notice our "audience" per se. I started off doing fanzines, Alex started off doing mini-comics and here we were in an environment where we were THE Dave Sim and THE Alex Robinson and in that context—a night-before party at a small-press convention—I just think it polite to let people listen in who are, in their turn, starting off. It gives them a sense of connection (however valid or invalid that sense might actually be) which I think is a major part of small press events.

Of course the subject also touches on issues of privacy that I've had to give up since publicly stating that I'm not a feminist and that I advocate non-feminist political choices. Feminists never attack ideas they always attack you personally which leaves you with two choices: let them tear you to pieces in absentia with rumour and innuendo or adopt the view that everything about your life is public and an open book, there's no such thing as a private correspondence or a private conversation because anything you do privately is going to get "spun" by the feminists into some form of foundation for further character assassination.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Alex and I have a long history that goes back to him sending me copies of Box Office Poison in the original digest comic format I mentioned above and I was always pulling for him to make it and always gratified when another issue arrived with the familiar return address. Needless to say, having watched his painstaking and hard-fought for progress, I'm a HUGE fan of his latest graphic novel, Tricked, and made a point to write him a long letter about it after buying it and devouring in one afternoon shortly after it came out (he sent me a copy sometime between my buying it and writing to him). Years ago, on those occasions when we were both set up at the same small press or mainstream con, I'd wander by his table and say, "Wow. THE Alex Robinson." It's a good example of a joke that later comes true and threatens to devour you. Alex freely confesses to have lifted a few of my storytelling tricks (far more obvious in Box Office Poison than it was in Tricked—he's definitely become his own man) and might even have been charged with being a Dave Sim clone at one point. But, in the future? It would be no great surprise to hear: "Ah, Alex Robinson. Yes, brilliant graphic novelist. Have you ever heard of Dave Sim? No? No, most people haven't. He did this largely forgotten work called Cerebus. See if you can dig up some of the issues from the mid-1980s and you'll see a lot of where Alex Robinson came from." There's no point in trying to argue with it. If it happens it happens. I got a letter a while ago from someone who had just discovered Barry Windsor-Smith's work and was amazed to see just how profoundly he had influenced my own work how much of his Gorblimey Press stuff and his later Conan material I lifted practically intact. Several people have told me that they had no idea that Lord Julius was based on someone until they ran across the Marx Brothers by accident!

The ultimate verdict of art history is always out of our hands.

Anyway, I'm friendly enough with Alex and have enough history with him (which is a little different than the situation with Batton Lash—I inadvertently influenced Batton through my Pro Con speech to write Archie vs. Punisher and use the proceeds as seed money to start Exhibit A Press and that's really where the professional connection begins and ends) that I just flat-out asked him in my last letter if his crazed misogynistic character Steve in Tricked was based on me.

"I was surprised that you would think that the character Steve was you. If that was really what I thought of you, why would I send you the book? I know your stock has fallen a bit in this stupid industry, but I didn't think you got many people insulting you directly to your face."

I didn't think that was the type of person that you are but there are very few people who have genuinely and sincerely been charged with misogyny in our industry (or in society in general for that matter) and none where no voice has been raised in his defence—I'm the only one I can think of aside from, perhaps, Robert Crumb and he's pretty much "vouched for" by being married to Aline Kominsky whereas as far as I know I'm under universal female indictment for having broken the hearts of D.L., D.S. and S. A. (discretion really is the better part of chivalry) in the ranks of my industry "conquests" (they broke their own hearts, in my view, all I did was refuse to capitulate to their feminist politics—a subject for another time). And Steve in Tricked was definitely a truly misogynistic character which is also virtually unique in the field (as well as in society in general) so based on my alleged misogyny (which, in my view, is really just opposition to what I see as feminist excesses) if that had been your intention—to document comics' only universally agreed-upon misogynist with a genuinely misogynistic character—I thought it would at least make for a fruitful and open discussion if you thought, as an example, that I was in some way slighting your better half (as seemed to be the case with Batton Lash—at least from his better half's point of view) on the only occasion that Kristen and I chatted at SPACE (2003, I believe).

The most recent person to violate the Dave Sim radio silence dictated by the comic-book feminists was Dirk Deppey in his Comics Journal interview with Terry Moore who, apropos nothing, suddenly launched into

About a year and a half ago, we did a critics' roundtable on Dave Sim, and I'm sure you're aware of his, what's the euphemism, "controversial" views on men versus women. I have to say that the official Comics Journal line was best described the first time around they did this, which basically, had an artist's rendering of Sim as the commandant at a concentration camp for women. I have a difficult time working up that level of antagonism towards Sim's views, not because I agree with them, but because most men and women I know really do view the opposite sex as the opposite species on one level or another. The whole men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus thing is fairly ingrained not just in our culture, but virtually all cultures. Sim just went a little overboard in trying to turn it into an all-encompassing, goofy-ass theory, in my opinion.

Again, there is no effort to address my ideas, they are just declared "goofy ass" and that's expected to be the end of it. Again, I find that intellectually dishonest. Lawrence Summers—before feminists hounded him from his office as Harvard president—addressed a core biological reality that women are incapable of competing in the advanced maths and sciences even though thanks to the excesses of affirmative action they outnumber men by a wide margin at the start of the academic "race". In both instances we were labelled as misogynists even though we were just making an observation based on empirical evidence. With all deference to Mr. Deppey—who is, I grant you, an improvement over his predecessors at the Journal in this area—the intellectual dishonesty in continually evading what Lawrence Summers and I and people like us are saying by suggesting we have "goofy ass" theories and that we should content ourselves with being dismissed out of hand in that way goes well beyond the feel-good parameters of "men are from Mars women are from Venus". If you want to be intellectually dishonest on the subject of feminism, that is your fundamental right but I would appreciate it if people would stop deprecating me and Lawrence Summers and others like us just because we base our views on empirical evidence. Either refute our views with contrary empirical evidence or, you know, stop referring to them as "goofy ass" as if you have already refuted them.

Anyway, on to happier subjects:

Thanks very much, indeed, for sending along Husky, the two-headed digest with the first chapter of your 2 Cool 2 B 4gotten and Tony Consiglio's Titanius. An actual brand new Alex Robinson digest comic. Just like old times. Is it just me or this a kind of mano a mano "who's actually going to finish their story first?" kind of gig? Anyway, splendid shot by Kristen of you two boys in tuxedos and sporting a couple of spiffy cheroots really badly reproduced. Is that a vest Consiglio is wearing or have the shingles come back so bad that they're now actually growing out through his shirt? Scandal-mongering bloggers and the comic-reading public have a right to know. Maybe Alex has the original photo posted at or can put it up there sometime soon for verification by any of the Yahoos specializing in skin ailments (yep. Looks like shingles all right. Right through his dress shirt. Yeccch.)

Tony and Alex have been hanging out together since their days at SVA in one of Will Eisner's classes where they were (how can I put this?) deemed to be somewhat-less-than-exemplary students in the deportment department. Tony tells one of my favourite stories about Will coming over to his and Alex's table at a comic-book convention (San Diego?) and has really gotten tired of me dragging him across the room at SPACE to tell yet another complete stranger (the last one was Jason Trimmer as I recall). Tony is easily one of the funniest guys in comics (not quite Evan Dorkin level but definitely up there) and I always look forward to new work by him. If we can get a hundred or so people to check out his website at we might even be able to persuade him to post the Eisner story. Also recommended is his latest book from Top Shelf, 110 Per[cents sign. Why doesn't my keyboard have a "cents sign"? I never noticed that before. Somehow I just know this is all Tony's doing! Curse you, Tony Consiglio!]

Alex's contribution gets off to a running start. There's a quality to writing a serialized graphic novel that's quite different from just writing a comic book and, I suspect, different from writing a non-serialized graphic novel and Alex, it seems to me, has that nebulous quality pretty much nailed. Tricked was non-serialized and Box Office Poison was serialized. I've only done "serialized" (so far). How quickly do you have to get into the story and how much information do you have to impart in how short a time seems to me the core of the aptitude. Here Alex gets a lot of the information across in the form of a patient's questionnaire at a holistic medicine center and an interior monologue that is one large block of text in the iconic shape of the narrator's face, both really good ways of accomplishing the necessary task that don't impede the narrative flow or call unnecessary attention to themselves. The result is that you get (by my estimation) roughly 22 pages of narrative in 16 pages. That's a very good proportion to hit in a medium where so much of the narrative challenge is how you condense information without appearing to do so, so that you can let conversations between characters take a more natural-sounding (to the reader's inner narrative ear which he or she isn't usually aware of unless he or she happens to also be a cartoonist) course.

Today's edition of The Blog & Mail has been brought to you by

Page 139 of Dave Sim: Collected Letters 2004

(one page? Only one stinking page for Eisner-Award winning Alex Robinson and nothing for Tony Consiglio? Sad but true. Nowadays I just clip out all of the appearances of Alex and Tony from the comics press and glue them into big scrapbooks. I don't know what that's all about. I'll decide to go and pick up groceries and two hours later I'll "come to" with a bowl of soggy cereal I haven't touched in front of me and just, you know thumbing aimlessly through scrapbook after scrapbook with the big colour photos of Alex and Tony from WizardWorld and San Diego Comic-con. Frankly, I'm getting a little worried about myself)

Dave Sim: Collected Letters 2004

Available at better comic book stores, gathering dust and stuffed in behind big piles of Alex Robinson and Tony Consiglio "new hot releases"

Or order online at


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.